Watercolour-Gouache Demo

Turning a Man into an Iris

By Mary Nunn, SCA www.digitaldoor.net

Recently I developed a new painting process that is based on circular forms, one of the five universal shapes. For further examples look under the Heron Series on my Web site www.digitaldoor.net.

When I am in the flow of a new painting direction I find it useful to photograph the process step-by-step while I am working. I would describe myself as an intuitive, explorative painter and this is a tool I use to better understand the evolving process and to clarify my thoughts.

My interest in the Heron Series mentioned above is in contrasting transparent and opaque areas of paint as well as combining organic and geometric shapes. I use transparent watercolour, with some Chinese and titanium white gouache. Below is a step-by-step description of the evolution of one painting in this series.

Step 1

Figure 1

I start with an unwanted painting, which then becomes my underpainting. In this case I've used a 30' x 22' gestural figure study as the basis, shown in Figure 1.

Step 2

Figure 2

To start, I completely cover the paper surface with strong staining colours such as Winsor Violet and Blue, stamping into the wet paint with a tissue to break up the underlying texture as in Figure 2.

Step 3

Figure 3

Looking at the painting from all sides I decide it will be a horizontal image of irises. With a short-haired bristle brush I draw in the iris shapes, separating them from the background using pthalo blue, burnt sienna and white gouache (Figure 3).

Step 4

Figure 4

Next I rework the drawing, extending the shapes to fit the page better and begin to work some circular shapes into the composition to set off the organic iris forms seen in Figure 4.

Step 5

Figure 5

I rewet the paper by misting with water if dry. Then I carve into the paint with scrapping tools, overlapping some circles and scratching into the gouache to create desirable textures (Figure 5).

Step 6

Figure 6

Figure 6 shows how I use parts of a circle to form a ribbon to anchor or connect my design to the side edges of the paper. With gouache on the paper, I use a sponge roller to apply the next layers of transparent colour in bands of analogous colour, in this case, yellow, red and red-violet. The reason I use a roller is gouache re-dissolves readily when a brush is used.

Step 7

Figure 7

At this point, the iris flower heads consist of part of the original painting (Step 1) and appear too dark for my liking. By mixing up a blue-violet with white I scribble over the surface of the flowers to lighten their value. Golden yellow is worked into the background to compliment the blue-violet of the flowers. See Figure 7.

Step 8

Figure 8

Following this step I roll on more transparent washes and change the placement of light values with gouache mixed with watercolour. The result of this appears in Figure 8.

Step 9

Figure 9

In this next step shown in Figure 9, values are adjusted, more transparent watercolour is rolled on and scrapping is done where I feel textural interest is needed.

Step 10

Figure 10

Finally, a few more light values and stronger darks are added with a last few glazes of transparent watercolour to intensify the colour brilliance (Figure 10).

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